The crowd couldn’t believe it! Jesus was speaking to and associating himself with Zacchaeus and this was seen as being completely outrageous because he was a tax collector who had sold out to their enemies. You see, the land of Israel was under Roman occupation and people especially hated tax collectors because they had chosen to collaborate with the enemy who had seized control of their country.
So, when Jesus stopped and talked with Zacchaeus, he was spending time with the most hated person in that community.
Jesus was walking through Jericho and Zacchaeus really wanted to see him but there are too many people and so he ran on ahead and climbed a tree so that he could see Jesus.
Zacchaeus’ actions are extraordinary because he was someone who had a very high position in society and dignitaries don’t tend not to run around climbing trees so they can see better. Zacchaeus’ actions show how desperate that he was and he humbles and was willing to make a fool of himself in order just to be able to see and hear Jesus. Zacchaeus was a man who was open to change and he was searching for something that he hoped that he could find in Jesus.
As Jesus walked past he called to and invited himself around to his house. Zacchaeus climbed down excitedly and with great joy and he welcomed Jesus into his home enthusiastically. Everyone else treated him as an outcast but Jesus treated him like a human being who was worthy of acknowledgment, and it is no wonder that this started a life changing series of events.
The crowd was not very happy with Jesus but Jesus did what he thought was right anyway. One of the strangest things about this story is that Jesus enjoyed hospitality that has been paid for by a corrupt tax collector who cheated people.
You see, justice is important to Jesus but grace is important to him as well.
Jesus’ act of grace, love and acceptance leads to Zacchaeus’ victims receiving justice. In response to the acceptance of Jesus, he chose to turn himself around and to give half of his money to the poor as well as to commit himself to pay back four times the amount to anyone who he had cheated.
Jesus celebrated the fact that Zacchaeus had received salvation and he went on to say that he had come to seek and save those who are lost.
Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus, but Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus and those of us like him first.
Any of you reading this who have been in church a long time will have heard this story before but I hope and pray that we can all come to see just how outrageous that it is. Read it for yourself in Luke 19.
Some questions to consider.
Who are the people like Zacchaeus in our society?
Will we be like Jesus who associates with them?
Will we associate with them even when it results in others criticizing us?
Will we go and be with people where they are at instead of just trying to get them to come to church?
Jesus turned away from his disciples and the religious people who were seeking him to be with this notorious and hated person.
Do we really want to be like Jesus?
Read more about Jesus and how shocking he was in my post ‘Jesus said something but I couldn’t remember what’.